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 Post subject: Re: Economic impact of steam
PostPosted: Mon Jun 17, 2019 3:36 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 22, 2017 6:47 pm
Posts: 185
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Steam DOES sell tickets and attracts people.

The Borough of North Wales is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Among other things, they wanted a train. North Wales is on SEPTA's Lansdale-Doylestown Line and has at least hourly service in each direction 7 days a week.

But they wanted a STEAM train. The train was to run May 18, so the 4-8-8-4 was not available, but a nice Baldwin 2-8-0 was: New Hope and Ivyland 40, the same engine Ross Rowland runs for Santa.

They arranged for the 40; SEPTA's railroad is double-track with cab signals and ACSES PTC in both directions on each track. There is a set of crossovers South of Gwynedd Valley station and an interlocking at Lansdale so they could run regular service on single track with CSS/ACSES protection.

The steam train ran on the inbound track with the NH&I passenger consist while regular service ran on the outbound track. The 40 was faced North so it could power into the station with all the sound and fury of a steam engine. SEPTA Knoxville SE15B 80 was at the other end and pulled the train toward Gwynedd Valley. There were 4 trips, all sold out.

Here's a link to SEPTA's blog (while it lasts):

https://iseptaphilly.com/blog/northwalesexcursion

And a video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ideAZP6wWRU

Beginning 15:30 the videographer is on Swedesford Rd and the train is passing through Gwynedd Cut, which was a tunnel before electrification.

You may note car 1127 has Taylor trucks, typical of RDG MU cars. 1127 is a PBn steam coach and received the trucks in 1930, probably to test them for the MU car project. After 89 years, I guess they worked out.


Phil Mulligan


Last edited by EJ Berry on Mon Jun 17, 2019 6:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Economic impact of steam
PostPosted: Mon Jun 17, 2019 4:20 pm 

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2016 1:15 pm
Posts: 450
"Adding a third rail to historic track may be impossible and isn't preservation."

It's certainly possible. And it depends on what the museum is trying to preserve. Is the goal to preserve the rail line itself in memory of the dam? Well then steam, nor the UP diesel should be an option. If the goal is to represent the history of railroading in the state of Nevada then Narrow Gauge is certainly part of the story they are trying to tell.

Anyone that's been to Vegas recently knows that it's very much a family destination these days. The amount of strollers in the casinos reminds me of Disney sometimes! Lots of family friendly magic shows, circus shows, theme parks etc. (and of course the non-family friendly ones are still there too.

An old steam train experience vs. a railroad museum with a train ride are 2 very different things, and that's something the museum really needs to consider. If you focus on an "old west" style steam train ride it probably would increase ridership... but that may take away from time and resources being spent on the museum itself... for better or worse.


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 Post subject: Re: Economic impact of steam
PostPosted: Mon Jun 17, 2019 5:55 pm 

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2016 1:15 pm
Posts: 450
Adding to EJ's post above...

New Hope Railroad (which according to the website is the new official name... which is news in itself) doesn't seem to see the $$$ for running steam much other than for Holidays and Special Events. (I think they would see more ridership on the standard trains if they advertised and ran steam on it.. but that's just my personal opinion).

HOWEVER... because they had a steam engine, look at what they are able to do this year operating on the Bethlehem Branch. This has been a great regional partnership that wouldn't be possible without steam. It's these opportunities that have to be weighed when you consider the true "Economic Impact" of steam.


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 Post subject: Re: Economic impact of steam
PostPosted: Mon Jun 17, 2019 7:51 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:19 pm
Posts: 1834
Location: Pottstown,Pa.
As previously stated multiple times for selected special events ( Santa, North Pole, Pumkin, Halloween etc., etc.) steam can justify its substantially greater operating costs but for every day run of the mill tourist trains not so much.

Those who have done the actual operating experiments as has the NH&I RR have proven this strongly with real results.

You can't argue with the market...its never wrong. Most daisy picker train riders could care less what's pulling their train.

Ross Rowland


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 Post subject: Re: Economic impact of steam
PostPosted: Mon Jun 17, 2019 8:05 pm 

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2016 1:15 pm
Posts: 450
"Those who have done the actual operating experiments as has the NH&I RR have proven this strongly with real results."

No... the New Hope Railroad (not the NH&I any more according to the website) has experimented and chosen what they feel is best for them. Nothing wrong with that, but further up in this thread a member of the Oregon Coast Railroad claims the exact opposite.

As does Nevada Northern on their website which says “In 2008, we experienced a year without steam. The results were devastating, our ridership dropped almost 30% and even worse, our revenue dropped over 40%!”

It would also seem that Western Maryland is down in attendance at least partially because of no steam operations but I'm not sure that's all of the problem there.


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 Post subject: Re: Economic impact of steam
PostPosted: Mon Jun 17, 2019 10:20 pm 

Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2005 1:25 pm
Posts: 5588
Mid-Continent up in North Freedom, Wisconsin would also probably be able to furnish numbers of steam vs. diesel. They used to run steam regularly but haven't for something like 15 years now. Maybe their ridership numbers have held up.

Les


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 Post subject: Re: Economic impact of steam
PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 1:08 am 

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2016 1:15 pm
Posts: 450
Randy, it would be great to contact Swain County North Carolina and see how things have gone for them since helping to fund #1702. The locomotive has been operating a couple years now, so they should know if these numbers have turned out.

“With the return of steam operations, ridership on a daily train service to either the Nantahala Gorge or the town of Dillsboro could increase as much as 20%. It is estimated that the overall economic impact, quickly followed by a “ripple effect”, would result in the creation of a conservative number of 20 new jobs in addition to the new jobs created at GSMR.” - https://m.gsmr.com/index.php?q=gsmr-steam-engine-1702-restoration-update


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 Post subject: Re: Economic impact of steam
PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 7:46 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:19 pm
Posts: 1834
Location: Pottstown,Pa.
Folks. The only real tests that count on this issue are where the identical product EXCEPT for motive power is offered with the steam version commanding a 20-30% premium fare to cover its greater capex/opex costs vs. diesel.

All the other examples sighted above provide no where near the same value.

Because an operation used to run steam and now runs diesel the last xx years etc. is a very weak model.

To my knowledge the only road that has 2 seasons worth of actual data showing the general publics response to a choice of diesel or steam ( with steam at about a 25% premium) is the NH&I. Very valuable data.

Ross Rowland


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 Post subject: Re: Economic impact of steam
PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 9:20 am 

Joined: Fri Nov 16, 2007 10:21 pm
Posts: 105
Randy,

I've thought many times how much a steam locomotive would enhance your ride, and I'd love to see it happen. I'm glad that it is something your organization is willing to consider and I'd bet you have given it a lot of thought and studied it well, but I'd like to throw out a few considerations in case you might have missed.

The expense of a steam locomotive is much more than an initial capital investment or a few tanks of fuel oil. The infrastructure to maintain it well should also be considered. I have been inside your shop a few times, but mostly to see what was stored there without giving much attention to the building itself or tools inside, so I don't know what your capabilities are.

Operating steam without an inspection pit is only for the truly hardy, and a drop pit is almost as essential. Also some good forklifts and a small machine shop. You also need some sort of reach forklift or crane for removing items from the top of the boiler (ie. dome lid, dynamos, etc...)

Also, I believe you operate mostly with volunteers, and a steam operation will substantially tax this crew base. You need hostlers to come in at O'dark 30 to fire it up, 2 competent individuals to run it through the day, and an overnight crew to take care of fuel, water, lube, and maintenance. Plus there is the mess of dripping oil and grease, soot, water treatment chemicals, and the disposal of used boiler water (either through blowdowns along the right of way or dumping at the end of the operating season). Since you are a state agency, you will probably have considerations from Environmental regulations and OSHA, including confined space operation and fall protection (I image your Carson City counterparts have a lot of insight in these areas).

As far as economic impact, we operate a steam engine one Saturday a month, at the front of the same train consist that runs any other day, for the same ticket price. You would expect, and hope, that there was a significant ticket increase on those select Saturdays that steam is running. However, the ticket bump is only a small blip on a large radar screen. Most of the people that crowd around the steam engine in the morning to check it out are still standing on the platform when the train departs. And at the Grand Canyon, it's mostly foreign visitors that give it attention during the layover, and they just happen to be there on vacation and want a quick picture. We don't even mess with steam on Polar Express or other special events. Polar sells well enough without it. We tried several years to have an annual 'Train Day' event with brief 45 minute steam trips throughout the day, for a low price. Also included other display equipment and shop tours. The event lost money each year.

What is unknown is how much the steam engine helps with overall marketing of the product, even to audiences that choose to come and ride later without the steam engine present.

Eric Hadder
Grand Canyon Railway


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 Post subject: Re: Economic impact of steam
PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 10:16 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:55 pm
Posts: 732
Location: Warren, PA
There's a lot of really good first-hand insight here, but it's also a classic case of 'it depends'.....

If you've promoted steam in the past, have it as part of the advertising, create the impression it's part of the draw... dropping it can have some rather abrupt results. WMSR spend years and years promoting itself as 'Mountain Thunder' with the 734 with the 'big show' watching steam climb the hill to Frostburg. Now they've had to fall back on special events and entertainment, not bad, but the standard coach seat experience isn't what it was for sure. 1309 will bring that back, at least for a while.

Eric's comments on the Grand Canyon are also right. They are running an 'almost' transportation service to the South Rim. It's a long trip, and you can't see the locomotive all that much from the train except near the south rim with all the curves. So while I would 'wait for it' for a steam-powered trip, I'm in the minority. Still a great trip without it, they know firsthand with-and-without.

One of my clients that does Polar says the only value of steam is the 'arrival show' at the platform..... they unload the last train, back out of sight, load the platform for the next train, then 'pull in' with as much drama as possible, cylinder cocks open, bell ringing, whistle blowing, and THAT is part of the show. That makes it worthwhile, but other than that... I see a lot of operators that don't capitalize on it even if they have it.

For Boulder? Don't know. I know up to the V&T it's REALLY expected, same at Ely, that's part of the show and part of the era of the entire region. But Boulder? You're not the only steam show in the state. I'd really want to go through the front-end market research because I don't think your market would change that much as a destination, you'll pull in more to see steam... but the question remains if it is enough and how elastic the ticket pricing is to cover cost. You're also one of those classic cases that can argue all day if you're the destination draw and people then visit the dam, or if they come to visit the dam and stumble into the railroad for an additional thing to do. Need to find out.

From what I can see on Google Earth it looks like they are working on building a highway bypass around Boulder City, too, which decreases your visibility to the tourist flows to the dam (or it's already almost finished). I know that had to make an impact in Carson City, too, for years they dumped people right off the partially-finished bypass right at the railroad museum @US50, hard to miss it, now it goes further south.

When we worked on the V&T the 'how did you hear about the railroad?' survey question response was one of my all-time favorites. As somewhat of a joke, I put in 'heard the train whistle and searched it out' as a survey response and THAT came back as the #1 reason, that steam whistle in that big open valley was the winner with that many people wandering the streets of Virginia City. You never know. You really do need to ask.


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 Post subject: Re: Economic impact of steam
PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 10:44 am 

Joined: Sun Oct 19, 2008 12:58 pm
Posts: 1269
Location: Chicago USA
When comparing ticket sales of steam vs. diesel trains that run concurrently such as on alternating departures one must bear in mind that the person opting for the diesel train ride is still deriving benefit of the steam train simply by watching, listening, and photographing. Just as with railfans who turn out for excursions but don't actually ride there will be some who don't ride any train. Steam operations may therefore benefit diesel sales as well as general admission, if any.


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 Post subject: Re: Economic impact of steam
PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 6:31 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 22, 2017 6:47 pm
Posts: 185
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Well, believe it or not, New Hope and Ivyland (or New Hope RR if you prefer) is going to do it again!

This time they're celebrating Lansdale Founders Day, Saturday August 24, 2019 and will be operating 6 trains out of Lansdale to "the former West Point Pike train station."

It appears the train will use the former RDG Stony Creek Branch to West Point PA. The track is owned by SEPTA. West Point did have an amusement park and was served by the LVT Liberty Bell Line trolleys.

While the train is in Lansdale, they will operate 8 excursions on the former RDG Bethlehem Branch to Souderton, 3 on Friday August 23, 2019 and 5 on Sunday August 25, 2019.

The all-important fares for a one-hour ride:

First Class: $59.99
Open Air: $49.99 (this was not offered on the North Wales train)
Coach: $39.99

Trains leave from the RDG/SEPTA Lansdale station.

The Souderton trains will not interfere with SEPTA's passenger trains and the West Point trains will do so minimally.

https://www.newhoperailroad.com/founders_day/

https://www.newhoperailroad.com/steam-o ... em-branch/

Phil Mulligan


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 Post subject: Re: Economic impact of steam
PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 8:21 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:19 pm
Posts: 1834
Location: Pottstown,Pa.
Yes, the special events such as the above post is where short line steam can justify its additional costs and make business sense.

These community celebration connected events provide the new audience needed to fill all the seats and produce the needed revenues to make it worthwhile.

Let's hope the Lansdale events go well.

Ross Rowland


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 Post subject: Re: Economic impact of steam
PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 9:41 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 22, 2017 6:47 pm
Posts: 185
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Right you are, Ross.

This time in addition to the Event, they're running trips Friday and Sunday on PA Northeastern (PN) lines while the train is there. They can make some revenue to help recover the cost of moving the train from New Hope to Lansdale and back.

Steam is fun to work and watch, but even before the current steam rules with 1472 day inspections steam was more expensive than diesel so you had to balance what you did versus what you made and spent. Steam, well publicized steam, does draw more people and is worth the price to run it. It's a business first.

Phil Mulligan


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 Post subject: Re: Economic impact of steam
PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 10:00 pm 

Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 10:28 pm
Posts: 232
co614 wrote:
Folks. The only real tests that count on this issue are where the identical product EXCEPT for motive power is offered with the steam version commanding a 20-30% premium fare to cover its greater capex/opex costs vs. diesel.

All the other examples sighted above provide no where near the same value.

Because an operation used to run steam and now runs diesel the last xx years etc. is a very weak model.

To my knowledge the only road that has 2 seasons worth of actual data showing the general publics response to a choice of diesel or steam ( with steam at about a 25% premium) is the NH&I. Very valuable data.

Ross Rowland


Great Smoky Mountain Railroad in North Carolina should have that data as well. Steam for about ten years until the early 2000s, then many years of diesel only. Steam re-introduced in 2016 to supplement the diesel runs, so there is now a diesel option and a steam option on two separate routes with one slightly more scenic than the other. You have sporadic steam runs through the summer months (primarily weekends), and then daily in October at a slightly inflated price on top of the regular diesel runs.

It would be interesting to hear some real comparison numbers thrown around, although I suspect its a case of location and marketing as much as anything, and the numbers at one place probably won't translate to somewhere else where those factors are different.

From a purely financial standpoint, whatever ridership bump that steam brings is often offset by the "care and feeding" that it demands. With diesels, your ridership may be lower, but so are your mechanical costs. If dollars drive everything, you make more money with diesel by savings on the mechanical side even though your attendance drops.

My experience is that most of the places that run steam do so because they have a volunteer and administrative base that is passionate and want to see a steam locomotive operating, and are willing to put in the extra effort to make that happen, as opposed to just looking at it from the financial side of the picture.


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